Spotlight on Minor Depressive Disorder

Page content

What is Minor Depressive Disorder?

The term “minor depressive disorder” is used to describe a mood disorder that does not meet the criteria for major depression yet remains a clinically distinct and significant issue. Prevalence rates for minor depression range between 2 and 5 percent in primary care settings.

What are the Symptoms?

Minor depressive disorder is still not recognized as a diagnosable condition in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), but is included in the broad category “depressive disorder not otherwise specified.” The DSM-IV-TR does suggest that minor depression can be considered as a potential diagnosis in future editions but calls for further study.

Minor depression can be diagnosed based on the same symptoms and criteria as major depression but requires only 2 to 4 of the 9 symptom criteria to be present for at least two weeks rather than 5 or more. While major depression also requires either “depressed mood” or “loss of interest or pleasure” to be present, minor depression does not.

To diagnose minor depression an individual must exhibit any 2 to 4 of the following symptoms: depressed mood, diminished interest or pleasure, significant weight loss or weight gain, sleeping too much or insomnia, fatigue or lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, thoughts of death, and psychomotor changes (excessive fidgetiness or the extreme opposite).

The Impact of Minor Depression: It isn’t “Minor” at all

The term “minor” depression may be misleading because in no way is it any less significant or damaging than “major” depression. In fact, a person suffering from 4 symptoms of depression and meeting the criteria for minor depression may be suffering just as much or more than an individual exhibiting 5 symptoms necessary for a major depression diagnosis.

Individuals who meet criteria for minor depression tend to exhibit a greater number of the emotional and cognitive aspects of depression such as feelings of sadness, loss of interest/pleasure, irritability, anxiety, pessimism, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue rather than the physiological symptoms such as insomnia and psychomotor disturbance. Basically, minor depression is a bit more akin to the traditional idea of what it means to be feeling “depressed.” Experiencing more of these cognitive and emotional symptoms can obviously result in greater ratings of subjective suffering.

Minor depressive disorder has been found to be more prevalent than major depression in primary care settings (according to and can have significant impact on health, quality of life, financial wellbeing, and relationships, with far-reaching consequences. It responds to the same treatments currently in place to address major depression, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and SSRI medications, and so requires no additional resources to treat. All that is needed from the medical community to address minor depression is recognition of the disorder, the willingness and ability to diagnosis it, and referral to treatment


Mental Health Today,

Psychiatry Online,,